‘Fresh is always best’. Or is it?
We’re taught that fresh is the best way to consume fruit and vegetables, and in some cases, it’s certainly true.
But thanks to improvements in freezing technology, frozen is coming up as a solid contender in the produce game.
The benefits of fresh produce
Fresh produce has plenty to offer us. It is often the tastiest option, especially when it’s freshly picked from the garden. Fresh is also best when it comes to eating veggies raw in dishes like salad.
When produce is only a day or so old, like when you pick it up from the farmer’s market, it is the most nutritious. Fruit and vegetables that have just been harvested will have the highest amount of antioxidants and vitamins.
Another upside of fresh produce is that in Australia, it’s almost always Australian-grown. If it’s not, it must be clearly labelled with a country of origin. This means it’s easy to pick options that are grown to the strict standards of Australian produce.
However, the benefits of fresh produce only apply when they are still relatively young. As they age, water-soluble nutrients are lost, and the food becomes less nutritious.
Aged produce is often less appealing, both visually and taste-wise. There is also a chance of produce going mouldy, even while it is still quite young. So it’s much more likely that you’ll throw out fresh produce instead of consuming it, contributing to food waste.
The benefits of frozen produce
When fruit and veggies are frozen, the nutrients are ‘frozen in’ along with them. Many nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C and antioxidants, are sensitive to heat and light. By freezing them, they are locked in and take much longer to deteriorate.
The research supports frozen produce in terms of nutrient content. It was found that 66% of frozen produce contained more vitamin C and antioxidants, including lutein, beta-carotene, polyphenols and anthocyanins compared to refrigerated fresh produce after 3 days.
Frozen produce can help to reduce the cost of your grocery bill. Frozen options tend to be significantly cheaper than fresh options. Buying frozen also reduces the likelihood of food waste. This is because frozen fruit and veg last longer than fresh, so you’re less likely to be throwing it out.
However, there a couple of things to consider when using frozen produce. Unlike fresh vegetables, you will almost always cook frozen vegetables. Many of the cooking methods for frozen vegetables, such as boiling, can significantly reduce the nutrient levels. So if you are using frozen veggies, steam them lightly or add to a stirfry instead of boiling them.
It’s also important to know where your frozen produce is coming from. If it’s Australian-grown, it’s unlikely to be an issue. But if it’s grown in another country, you don’t know what their laws are around farming. So you could be consuming produce grown in conditions that would be illegal in Australia. This is why we had issues over the past couple of years with berries linked to hepatitis – the berries were grown in China and Chile, not Australia.
Is one option healthier than the other?
That really depends on the situation. Produce that is straight off the plant is always going to have the maximum nutrition. But if you’re talking about fresh produce that is days, weeks or even months old, it’s a different story.
If you can source your produce straight from the local farmers market or garden and prepare it on the day, that’s ideal. But if that’s unrealistic for you, frozen may be a good alternative to consider. In that case, opt for Aussie-grown produce and choose cooking methods that preserve as many nutrients as possible.
Health experts often recommend eating fresh produce at the start of the week, when you’ve just bought it, then switching to frozen later in the week. This can be a good compromise for people who want to enjoy fresh produce, but also need convenient and affordable options.
I hope we covered all the areas of fresh vs frozen produce for you, just make sure you choose the best option that suits your needs the best and remember if you want to keep up to date with everything Super Cubes you can do so on Facebook or Instagram.
Author | Samantha Gemmell
Sam is a Nutritionist, Health Writer and Wellness Speaker as well as being an Author for Super Cubes.
She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and helping people through their journey to health and wellness combining their mindset, nutrition and lifestyle. When she’s not helping people, she enjoys dancing in the rain and cuddling dogs.
Sometimes she does both at the same time.